The value of skillful fielding at first base has gone down in recent years as ‘The Juiced Era of Baseball’ (either the baseballs and/or the players themselves) has changed the perception of the position. The prototype for the modern first basemen is in the mold of a low average hitter who compensates for his poor glove with tremendous power and a high on-base percentage. A term was introduced to describe players of this ilk as they were deemed ‘jack and jog’ ballplayers.He also stated his case for Hernandez, which you can read here.
Not only were Hernandez and Mattingly two of the more deft-fielding first basemen in recent memory but were also high average hitters with a good amount of pop. Power isn’t entirely defined by home runs and each of these men regularly hit over 35 doubles throughout their careers. Fences were moved back during 1980’s and cut short the power strokes of batters who played before the introduction of the juiced ball and clamoring for long balls after 1994 strike.
The Case For Mattingly
‘Donnie Baseball’ was also a prodigious fielder as he claimed 9 first base Gold Gloves which is only second in history to Hernandez himself. Mattingly was more of a hybrid player than Hernandez as he excelled at the plate and is considered one of the more dominant hitters of the 1980’s. In fact, he held the highest batting average (.323) and slugging percentage (.521) of all first basemen during the 80’s and the most RBIs in a single season (145) during the decade.
The fact that Mattingly was hampered by back injuries throughout the 1990’s only enhances his reputation. He won each of his 3 Silver Sluggers and was named to the AL All-Star team 6 times before the 90’s even began. Mattingly almost completed back-to-back MVP-winning seasons in 1985 and 1986. He took home the 1985 award but lost out to Roger Clemens in the latter year despite batting .352 and leading the AL in hits, doubles, total bases and slugging percentage.
He stands as a .307 lifetime hitter even while dealing with the said back issues and had an unbelievable hitter’s eye. Mattingly finished with 588 walks and only struck out 444 times in 7,721 plate appearances during his career. He may have never won that elusive World Series ring but anyone who saw ‘Donnie Baseball’ play understood that he was as vital to the New York Yankees as Derek Jeter was during the championship years following Mattingly’s retirement in 1995.
I'm extremely bias here. Donnie was and still is my favorite player of all time, and to me he is a Hall of Famer. But the reason I'm posting this is because I want to know what you guys think. Vote in the polls below...